Thursday, December 31, 2009
It stuck in my head. I’m new to pies, for a lot of my life I was very anti-pie. I’m still not huge on fruit pies. But through quiche and savoury pies I’ve begun to learn that pastry can be an excellent vessel, and I’m beginning to explore dessert pies as well. There was something about the thought of sugar pie and I just couldn’t think of anything else.
So I took to the internet and discovered that it is a traditional dish of Quebec (land of poutine, don’t forget) and incredibly simple to make. The only truly important element is the sugar itself. Pure Quebec maple sugar. I was now more determined than ever.
At the start of my lunch a dashed quickly across the parking lot to the supermarket to pick up a few ingredients. Namely, a half-litre of cream. I wasn’t shocked that the supermarket didn’t carry the proper sugar, and darted downtown to the specialty grocery store/ bakery/ deli, Auntie Crae’s. It took some digging, but Auntie Crae’s came through with small packets tied with twine and a maple leaf on the front. They cost $7.58, which seemed a little much for a small packet of sugar, but this was a special, seasonal sugar. Then I looked more closely. The packet contained 125 grams. For the cup of sugar the recipe required, I would need to buy two packets which meant spending $15.16 on sugar. Not sugar to stock up against the apocalypse, but sugar to go in one pie.
This was when I paused to have a think. I wouldn’t be able to leave the store if there was a possibility that I would never have a sugar pie. How could a person live like that? When you’re talking about something that you might regret for 60 years, fifteen bucks is not that much. Furthermore, if I didn’t make it today, than when? I couldn’t make it January, not with my resolutions for frugality and healthy eating kick in. Optimistically I could hold onto my resolutions for a few months, but I’m not going to make a maple sugar pie in summer, that’s just insane. So really now was the time. The last week of the year was the perfect time for sugar pie and I was standing there with cream and just the right kind of sugar.
I bought the sugar.
Quebec Maple Sugar Pie (from Epicurious)
This really couldn't be simpler. Whisk together one cup pure Quebec maple sugar (I've been assured that this is of the utmost importance) with 1/4 cup flour. Add 1 and 1/2 cups of heavy cream and mix. Pour the works into a partially baked pie crust and bake or 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
This pie will come out of my oven in 2 minutes. It smells amazing, it looks amazing, but I won't taste it quite yet. I'll save that for midnight. I have a feeling that it will go very well with cheap champagne
Thursday, December 24, 2009
This was a very simple day. Boyfriend and I rolled out the dough, cut the shapes, and baked the cookies. We got 8 dozen here, but it didn't really feel like much work. The butter cookies got green and red sugar sprinkled on top, but the chocolate ones we left blank. It seemed that icing these would just be a mess.
I kept a record of this one:
10:00 – Put on Pants
10:06 – Preheat oven
10:15 – Begin Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkles (www.epicurious.com) by toasting hazelnuts or “filberts”. I distracted the kitten by tossing her one, then was suddenly gripped with fears of a feline hazelnut allergy and stole it back. Kitten is not happy.
10:26 – Take out the hazelnuts
11:03 - Man, hazlnuts take a long time to shell!!
11:05 - Encounter my first problem of the day. I need to pulse the hazelnuts till finely chopped, but I don’t have food processor and my blender is full of sticky fig mixture. I briefly consider using my roommate’s processor without her permission (she’s not home) but I really didn’t want to risk anything happening to it, as I don’t know how to use it. I finally decide to go with Boyfriend’s coffee grinder. Coffee and hazelnut go together, right?
11:25 – Hm. Hazelnuts may be too finely chopped. Anyway, time to melt the chocolate.
12:03 – Chocolate hazelnut dough is finished! (30 minutes active time my ass) I put it in to chill and treat myself to a cup of tea and a beater before I start the dishes.
12:28 – Dishes are done! Time to start the trios!
12:45 – Well, that was quick and painless. Flour, butter, sugar, salt, egg and vanilla. Gotta love it. It’s chilling in the fridge (I have to admit, I did not consider fridge space when I started this project) and now it’s time for lunch. Kale and white bean soup, anyone?
2:02 – Back to work. It’s not all the dishes that bug me so much, it’s washing the exact same dishes over and over again. My big red bowl will be pink by the time I’m finished!
2:20 – Middle of the recipe for molasses crinkles and I discover that I need ground cloves and I only have whole cloves. At this moment I thank heaven for my friend J, who gave me a mortar and pestle for my birthday 3 months ago. Thanks, J.
2:35 – Oh no! A jar o partridgeberry jam fell from the cupboard and into the mixing bowl! Thank goodness it didn’t break!
2:40 – The bowl broke. There’s egg all over the counter. I don’t believe this
3:07 – Call it a miracle, but the cookies are in the oven!
3:17 – The molasses crinkles are out of the oven and they look fantastic!
3:30 – about half of them burned on the bottom. It’s ok, though. I have enough for gift and even the burnt ones taste pretty good, so I’ll just keep those.
3:45 – I start shaping the trios. Each is made up of three dough balls with a different kind of jam in each. To be a bit special, a used all locally-made jams. Blueberry, Rasberry and Partridgeberrry.
4:07 – The first batch of trios goes into the oven.
4:21 – I become so engrossed in the meditative feeling of rolling dough balls that I forget about the first batch and the alarm goes off. More burnt cookies!
4:35 – The second batch goes in.
4:45 – I don’t know how I feel about these. They came out all right, but they’re somewhat cracked and not uniformly golden. Also, on a few the jam bubbled over onto the cookie. I’m not really into jam cookies anyway, I’ll have to get Boyfriend’s opinion on them
5:00 – Ok, time to go to my parents for dinner. I’ll just finish cleaning up and then return for the shocking conclusion: Chocolate-Hazelnut Crinkles!!! (Or was that foreshadowed when I made the dough this morning?)
I woke up Monday morning feeling like I needed more molasses crinkles. I was out of butter and eggs, so my first trip was to the grocery store. While there, I noticed the pillsbury roll out dough. That would work for the fig swirls, but I'd never used a pre-made dough before, did I really want to start? I stood there for quite a while, then finally grabbed the box and headed out.
When I got home I unrolled the dough, spread the fig mush over it, rolled it back up and stuck it in the fridge. Then I got to baking. This was actually my most intense day, as I had a deadline: the office Christmas party at 4. The fig rolls in the fridge, I pulled out the chocolate hazelnut crinkles and started rolling balls and dipping in icing sugar. I got 4 dozen of these, so it was a lot of rolling. I skipped lunch and jumped right into the molasses crinkles. This was frustrated, as I ran out of the dark brown sugar and had to use the golden sugar. Also, there wasn't quite enough molasses, even though there should have been by the size of the container. Then there was more rolling and sugar dipping. I didn't burn these, anyway, so that was good. They weren't quite as good as the first batch, I'm blaming the sugar, but they were pretty good. 2 dozen more.
By this time it was after 3, and I was supposed to be at the party by four. I really didn't want to spend another day baking cookies, so I pulled the fig rolls out of the fridge and started slicing. I got two dozen more and did my makeup in the kitchen as they were baking. But they came out! They looked as if the dough in the middle hadn't baked properly, but they were just fine.
I baked 19 dozen cookies, and that is quite a lot. But you know, I would do it again. The cookies came out great and the recipients were all really appreciative. I didn't let myself get stressed, even when things got a bit tangly, and i enjoyed the feeling of baking treats for the people I care about. Finally, the house still smells amazing!
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, the second day of my cookie-baking extravaganza, I tried to make fig swirls. Basically, you make a pastry dough, roll it out flat, cover it with a fig filling, roll it up like a jelly roll, and slice cookies off of that for baking. I thought it sounded lovely and traditional, and a bit different for my cookie jar.
But it didn't work. The problem was in the pastry. The dough simply wouldn't stick together. I don't know if I did something wrong in the recipe, if the recipe itself was flawed, or if I was wrong to use a mixer instead of a food processor. I suppose it could be any combination thereof.
But you live and you learn. I never claimed to be anything more than a rookie in the kitchen, so there are going to be times when things don't go as planned. I have lots of other cookies, so I chucked the bad dough and moved on.
Any suggestions for what to do with the fig filling?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The idea came from www.epicurious.com 's "25 Days of Christmas Cookies". I quickly got caught up with the idea of doing all of them, baking cookies everyday. Boyfriend quickly pointed out that that would be more of a death march than a joyous kitchen experience. So I picked my top 5, pulled out Orangette's butter cookie recipe (www.orangette.blogspot.com) and made a schedule.
Tonight was the first night. I thought about live-blogging, but there was no time. After work Boyfriend and I hustled down to a local specialty grocery store for the last necessary ingredients, and then back home. I had almost forgotten that we would actually have to eat supper tonight as well. I took the opportunity to test out my new rice maker. I mixed wild rice, water, carrots and onion, turned the thing on, and then put on my baking apron.
The Danish Butter cookies take a pound of butter. I'm not kidding. Other than that, it's a fairly simple recipe, just sugar, flour, baking soda and egg. Since the butter is really the centre stage I used Spyglass butter, made just an hour away near a very good friend's childhood home.
I rolled out the dough, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge where it will stay until I'm ready to actually bake it. Boyfriend cooked some chicken while I started the dishes. We took a break for dinner and Jeopardy, and then got back to the business of the cookies.
Our next recipe was Chocolate roll outs, from www.epicurious.com . I really like the idea of chocolate cookies in Christmas shapes. Boyfriend started the dishes while I melted some bittersweet chocolate, and mixed it with sugar, butter, vanilla, flour and cocoa. The dough was delicious! I rolled it out, wrapped it in plastic, and popped it in the fridge.
At this point I took over the dishwashing duties. I'm beginning to realise that this will be a theme of the next four days. Dishes done, I called it a day ... for now!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
In the dream, I was washing and ripping kale leaves, getting ready to make my staple kale and chickpeas (recipe at www.orangette.blogspot.com) and sighing, wishing that Boyfriend found it filling enough for a meal, when it hit me: not chickpeas but chicken! I decided to make the switch to satisfy my ever-loving carnivore. As the dream continued I saw myself sautéing the chicken with prosciutto, for flavour. What an idea! Where had that come from? A few hours after waking I was still mulling it over in my head, so when I went home for lunch I took out some chicken to thaw. And thus, that night I had the best kale yet.
- Two chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- ¼ cup prosciutto, shredded
- 1 tbs Olive oil
- A big bunch of kale, washed and cut into ribbons (should still be wet)
Heat oil in a large, deep skillet. Add prosciutto and chicken and sauté until chicken is browned. Add the kale, cook until wilted. (You may need to add it in batches, but as it wilts it will shrink and you should have room for all of it). Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I read her mega-hit "A Complicated Kindness" summer before last. I usually avoid the big bestsellers, they have an annoying tendency to be sad voids where a potentially good story gets bogged down in terrible writing and critic-pandering, but when M. tells me I should read something, I usually do. He was right, as he mostly is. I liked it very much. A book about the hard times, and a hard girl that managed to avoid cliches and was funny without simpering.
If anything, I liked The Flying Troutmans even better. Again a story about people dealing with impossibly sad situations, Toews takes her prairie desolation on the road, to the deserts of the USA in this surprisingly optimistic story. The narrative is more traditional and therefore probably more accessible than the first. The heartbreak is constant, but so too is the idea that, although things will probably never be ok, they might at least get a little better. This is more optimistic than it sounds. You know that the characters will never be free of their burdens, because they are imposed by bad luck on people they love. They would not choose to leave anyone behind no matter how hurtful that person was. But you believe that things will likely improve to the point where they will be bearable, and that's good enough.
When the characters reach a situation that they can live with, you want to stand up and cheer. Bound by love, they find a way to deal.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
For those of you who don't live in Canada, poutine is the miracle that occurs when you sprinkle cheese over homefries and then pour gravy over the whole works. Traditional poutine uses cheese curds, but most of the chip joints in St. John's just use shredded mozzarella.
I find that when I'm really tired, when I'm stressed and work out and spread too thin, I need poutine. When things are bad but not too bad, I'm all about more wholesome comfort foods like peanut butter toast or soup, but there comes a time when it has to be poutine. Gut-churning, heart-stopping, oh-so-satisfying poutine.
Such a time came Saturday night.
It started Friday morning. I had to be early for work to attend an all-day symposium. The symposium was a success, but immediately after I was off to the mall for midnight madness. Once a year all the stores have 20% off and stay open till midnight. It's kind of how they kick off Christmas shopping. It's completely exhausting to work, but when you work at a cardshop it's all hands on deck. By 11 my feet were aching and my head was pounding. But when another girl got sick I was asked to come back to open the following morning.
Opening was a bit of a mess, it took me three counts to get the cash to balance, and the rest of the day was kind of a blur. By the time I was walking home from the busstop in the rain it became clear that it was a poutine night. Thankfully, wonderul boyfriend obliged with carryout from The Big R.
I barely got through a third of it (and a glass of wine) I felt full and comforted. After a big food-induced coma I was ready to tackle another week.
Monday, November 2, 2009
So what have I been doing? Well, working mostly. Cleaning some too (although you wouldn't guess to look about me. I may never clean again if this is how long it lasts!) I read a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, almost entirely on the bus, and cooked a whole lot of vegetables.
I was, for the vast majority of my life, a very picky eater. I refused many foods based on their names and appearances. I rejected anything that may have had spices in it. I ate mashed potatoes, noodles with Parmesan cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. As I reached adulthood, I came to be embarrassed in public of my reluctance to eat anything out of the ordinary, but I was still mystified by exotic options and overwhelmed by heavy applications of pepper.
I think, in my study of wine I found the root of my problem. I'm over-sensitive. I read a criticism of wine super-critic Robert Parker which basically said that he had smelled and tasted so much, his senses have become deadened and he only likes very strong wines now. I think I have the opposite problem, I smell and taste things too much. I've known for years that I have an overdeveloped sense of smell. I can smell a cheap vanilla body spray from 4 cubicles away. I've decided that's why I often find heavily seasoned dishes to be too much for me. So I've decided to focus on finding a variety of foods with more delicate flavours based on garlic, butter, oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and light seasonings to make meals that are aromatic and delicious, but subtle.
This is where the vegetables come in. For most of my life I would reject vegetables based on the fact that they were green and ugly. I began eating them with a steely determination for health, eating them raw or steamed because they are healthiest that way. Recently I've decided to be kinder to vegetables. To understand that they need different techniques and time to bring forth their proper flavour. And what flavour! They subtle differences between kale, romaine and spinach or between Brussels sprouts and cabbage have shown me a spectrum of colour I didn't know was possible. The sweetness of a carrot, the crunchy bitterness of broccoli send me into ecstasies of joy. Vegetables! Who knew?
Some of my new favourite vegetable recipes:
(Adapted from www.gourmet.com)
Butter-Seared broccoli, but calling it BSB puts me in mind of the backstreet boys, which automatically increases the joy of any endeavour.
Chop the florets off a head of broccoli and wash. Melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a skillet on high heat. The butter will foam, then subside. At this point add the broccoli and stir constantly. Marvel as your dull broccoli turns a vibrant shade of green, putting your spring lawn to shame! After a minute or two the butter should be absorbed. Remove from heat and sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt over. Run around your house insisting everyone eat your delicious broccoli, then sulk when you don't have enough left.
Adapted from a recipe from my lovely and talented roommate: http://www.blogger.com/profile/14863524897893517543
Line a cookie sheet with tin foil. Chop sprouts in half, removing any icky leaves as you do. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then arrange on the sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn, give another little brush with oil and return to the oven for an additional 20 minutes. (Although if they're small you might want to check on them after 10, I overcooked them the first time I tried it)
Mashed Butternut Squash
Adapted from Orangette. She does this as a puree, but I like a mash better. www.orangett.blogspot.com
Peel, seed, and chop up your squash. Boil squash until tender. Drain off liquid and mash vigorously with a glob of butter and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup. Eat for lunch out of a bowl on a cold and rainy day.
Also from orangette. What can I say? The girl understands veggies.
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage, rinse and pat dry. Chop into eighths and arrange the wedges in a baking dish. They can overlap a little, but shouldn't be layered. Chop up three or four carrots and a big onion and distribute around the cabbage. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup chicken broth, a few pinches of coarse salt and a couple good cranks from the pepper mill over the whole works. Cover tightly with tin foil and bake at 300 degrees for an hour. Then take it out, turn over the cabbage, add more liquid if it's at all dry, re-cover and put it back in for another hour. Yes, this takes a ridiculously long time, but you can't believe how delicious this is. Try it!
Friday, October 23, 2009
While the kettle boils I find out what the weather is like. The Museum is composed largely of windows that are several stories high and wrap around the building to provide panoramic views of the city. However, I'm in a little beige cubicle and can't see out. So people tell me what's happening. Apparently it's snowing.
With my tea I have a cookie. This is a shocking admission, because I take my tea in my office and food in offices is strictly forbidden. But the other part of this ritual is looking at kittens at icanhascheezburger.com or checking on my favourite blogs (see below) and I'm not giving up on it. The cookie has become such an important part of my day that it keeps me baking on a regular basis, even when nothing else does.
This is also the time of day that Tom Allen, DJ on CBC radio 2 shifts from classical music to contemporary. Today as I snuggled into my chair with my tea and my chewy cocoa chocolate chip cookie (see Orangette) Tom was playing some Joni Mitchell and kittens were being adorable. I thought to myself that this was a moment of perfect happiness. Perfect. I couldn't be happier if I was on a yacht in the Mediterranean. And I get this moment every single day.
I'm really very lucky.
Monday, October 19, 2009
I woke up in the morning and baked bread. I have never actually done this before. I used the recipe for "Rancho La Peurta Whole Wheat Bread" that I found here: www.orangette.blogspot.com . It was a little denser than I like my bread, but very good. It was pronounced fantastic by AC, who is a connoisseur of homemade bread, so I'll take that as high praise. AC and his girlfriend KW joined Boyfriend and I for soup for lunch. The soup, as usual, was one of Julia Child's. It was the saffron potato variation on her garlic soup. I was a little nervous as I was spooning it up. It was far too easy to make, for one thing, and for another it looked like nothing. Small pieces of boiled potato in a clear broth. Oh dear, I thought to myself, They're all going to hate it.
But JC didn't let me down. It was delicious! Unaccountably delicious, in fact. One of those meals that are double or triple the sum of their parts. And just too simple not to make all the time. Add friends, homemade bread, cookies, port and wonderful friends and you get a perfect Sunday.
(I made my usual chocolate chip cookies as a fall-back in case the rest of the meal was a disaster. I aged the dough for 36 hours after reading an article that claimed that this was the holy grail of baking tips. I don't think it made that much difference.)
Julia Child's Garlic Potato Soup:
I haven't given measurements for some of the herbs because she called for dried and I used fresh. Herbs are something you can play around with anyway.
1 head of garlic
four sprigs of parsley
pinch of saffron
3 cups chopped potatoes.
Separate the cloves of garlic and peel them. Throw them in 2 quarts of water with the thyme, sage, parsley and cloves. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the broth and discard the garlic and cloves. Add the potatoes and saffron to the broth and simmer for 20 minutes more.
And that's it! Seriously, that's all you have to do for a foolishly yummy soup.
Friday, October 16, 2009
As it happens, this week I did eat alone. Boyfriend picked up a nasty cold and didn't leave his house all week. (No, we don't live together. Seems like it sometimes, doesn't it?) With the book in mind I started the week determined to eat real food. I made the Braised Kale and Chickpeas I talked about a few posts back, except this time I actually used chickpeas. Tuesday I had an entire frozen pizza. Wednesday I can't remember what I had. At all. I'm here racking my brain. What did I do Wednesday? I know I watched Glee, I know I did some laundry, but I can't remember a single thing I put in my mouth. Yesterday was a collection of various leftovers.
It's clear to me: I love food, I love cooking, I love eating, but for me it needs that extra spice, someone you love to eat with. Boyfriend will be over tonight. I don't know what we're having, but I know I'm a lot more interested.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
What was inspiring, was my lemon blueberry almond crumble. This one came from a recipe on epicurious.com, but I changed it enough that I think I can call it mine. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before. Perhaps it’s a certain pride of ownership that makes me want to show the world. You don’t need me to tell you that boeuf bourguignon is time consuming and delicious, but if I don’t tell you about my dear little crumbles, no one will ever know.
Lemon, Blueberry and Almond crumble
Adapted from www.epicurious.com
1 cup sliced almonds with skins
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2 large egg yolks1 teaspoon vanilla
Fresh lemon juice
1 cup fresh blueberries
Sugar to taste
I started by popchopping the almonds into big chunks and toasting them for 5 minutes in a pan in the oven. Then I mixed flour, sugars, half the zest, cinnamon and salt with a wooden spoon. Boyfriend mixed in melted butter while I separated the eggs and lined the muffin pans with papers. Don’t forget to grease the papers I did, and it made for some tricky eating. Then we mixed in the yolks and vanilla. We pressed heaping tablespoons of the mixture into the papers, then chilled for 15 minutes (putting the remaining dough aside) while we prepared the blueberry filling. This was where I got really creative. I mashed the blueberries slightly to get the juice flowing, then I poured sugar over them, stirred, and added more sugar until the juice began to thicken. I added the remaining zest and as much lemon juice as I could squeeze out of the lemon. My friends and family like things really lemony. I dropped teaspoons of this mixture into the muffin cups while Boyfriend mixed the almonds into the remaining dough, which we then sprinkled to cover over the muffin cups. We baked for 20 minutes rotating halfway through. They were brown and toasty on top and very, very good.
Friday, October 9, 2009
The Betty Crocker Cookbook, circa 1977, was a constant. Her happy face, the colours dimmed over the years smiled over hundreds of cakes, cookies and pies. Coming home to see that orange binder open on the table meant something delicious was on it's way. My mother's copy is an absolute mess. Most of the pages are falling out, a lot are out of order. They're badly stained with grease and chocolate. Some have my mothers neat handwriting amending the recipes so they will cook perfectly in our dishes, in our oven. I love this book more than anything. So you can imagine my joy when my mother gifted me with my very own copy, 1977 edition and everything. It's just the same, except this one is clean and neat. But that won't last.
Last year at Christmas, Betty Crocker released her* 1967 Cooky Book, complete with the controversial "y" spelling of cookie. You can imagine how excited I was. But I didn't find this until January. I decided to wait until Christmas to use it.
Working in a cardshop messes with my internal calendar, and for the last few weeks I've been humming carols and dreaming of shortbread. The day before yesterday I added an extra blanket to my bed and decided, that's it. It's Christmas now.
Last night was my inaugural cooky. Almond Butter Cookies. the simplest thing in the world to make. Cream a cup of butter with a half cup of sugar. Add a cup of chopped almonds. Then two tablespoons of vanilla and two cups of flour. Form into balls and press flat with a greased glass dipped in sugar. Oven for 10 minutes and there's your cooky!
The were done by the ever-obliging Boyfriend in the popchop. It's an interesting thing, the problem with the popchop is that it doesn't chop evenly, but in this case it worked to an advantage. Some of the almonds were reduced to powder while others remained in small chunks. The powder combined with the flour to infuse the whole dough with an almond essence while the chunks livened up the cookies.
These were a very simple taste. Crumbly, just a bit sweet, just a bit almond-y, just a little bit creamy, not too soft. A perfect cooky to have with a cup of hot chocolate on a wintry night. I froze half the batch for use in December.
*Yes, I know she's not a real person. I don't care. I'm pretending she is.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
So when epicurious.com readers declared cauliflower puree, "just as good as mashed potatoes" I was understandably wary. But I had been looking for something to do with the lovely white cauliflower we'd picked up at our last farmer's market, and you could add garlic, cream and butter, so I decided to give it a try.
You start by boiling chopped cauliflower for ten minutes in water and milk and garlic. Then you drain (saving the broth) and roast the florets in the oven for 10 minutes at 250 degrees. At this point, you toss the cauliflower in the blender with some of the broth, and puree. Boyfriend seemed aghast at this. It turns out he's something of a blender virgin (Seriously? In this day and age?) and hot vegetables and broth offended his delicate sensibilities.
We wound up with something that looked like rice pudding, and that didn't taste like mashed potatoes at all. I considered adding more butter, more cream, more garlic, but I soon realized that I was considering a cream and butter soup with a cauliflower base. This goes against the spirit of the current vegetable theme, which is to let the veggies speak for themselves with minimal assistance. Anyway, Boyfriend loved it, eating the last half of mine as well as his own. Me, not so much. I doubt I'll make it again.
But the veggies were not a complete failure. When in doubt, listen to the gospel of JC (Julia Child) we had her carrots. I don't remember the French, but the dish consisted of boiled carrots tossed with a glob of butter and some chopped parsley. Delish, fab, and not trying to be something it's not.
Monday, October 5, 2009
The workouts began to overwhelm me. They took everything I had, and it took me too long to recover from them. I started to dread them. There have been plenty of times that I've had to force myself to run, but this was different. Running had lost it's joy. I tried to push myself forward anyway. I told myself that it wouldn't be a challenge if it wasn't hard, and that if I just got through I would feel much better.
But that simply isn't the case. Last night my father and I had a long talk. We went over the runs I had done, how I felt, and what my expectations were. The conclusion was obvious. I would probably be able to finish the race, but it wouldn't be a good run. I may have had to walk parts and I was risking injury. It was a hard thing to decide. I've been telling people for 9 months that I was going to do this, and I've got a lot of pride. But I want to recapture running. To enjoy it and do it for fun again. I'm worried that doing this race now would ruin that. So I'm leaving it to next year.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
When I myself was a child, I was both picky and willful. Some vegetables were eaten after long, drawn out negotiations (I would eat 23 peas, no more, no less) but some vegetables I would not even consider. Beets fell into the latter category. It wasn't a vegetable my parents ate regularly, so it wasn't much of an issue. The end result being that I ate beets for the first time yesterday.
A quick survey of food writers has revealed what seems to be a unanimous opinion on beets; they must be roasted, not boiled. The recipe we chose was from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry by Janet and Greta Podleski of Loony Spoons fame. As their cookbooks combine two of my Father's favourite things, healthy recipes and terrible puns, Loony Spoons was a big part of my childhood, and the subject of many negotiations. My tastes having matured, I accepted the complimentary copy I was given with some excitement. Having read through it, I decided that I would have bought it for myself, if I'd needed to.
So last night we got out the beets and turned to These Beets Were Made for Walking. Boyfriend wrapped them individually in tin foil and roasted them for an hour while I did hill sprints and took a shower. Then we took them out and let them cool while we roasted shallots in olive oil with fresh thyme. Boyfriend peeled and chopped the beets while I made chicken and broccoli to complete the meal, then we tossed the beets in a bowl with the shallot mixture and some balsamic vinegar.
I don't know exactly what I was expecting for my first beet experience, something mushy and turnip-like, I suppose, but it wasn't what I got. It was firm, with a rush of juice. My first bite quite surprised me. I ate my beets slowly, desperately searching for descriptors, but few were forthcoming. Beets are very different from anything in my (admittedly limited) experience. In the end I can only describe them as adult. Of course it was ridiculous for a child to like them, because beets are a grown-up food. But then, Lisa was always well beyond her years.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Now, I very rarely make changes to recipes. Shallots for onions are one thing, but how could we not have chickpeas with braised greens and chickpeas? After much, much deliberation, we decided to go with the lentils. Neither of us are very experienced with them, but we figured they looked similar and are both involved in Indian food in similar ways, so we nervously went ahead with it.
Boyfriend washed the Kale while I sliced it into ribbons. The kitten had a very odd reaction to the Kale, she seemed to be afraid of it. When boyfriend shook a leaf she'd leap at it, then mewl at me with fear and confusion in her eyes. She later took a stalk (about a foot long) and ran upstairs with it.
We cooked garlic and shallots in olive oil in the large skillet until the onions were nice and soft, then added the lentils. We weren't sure how long to cook them, as it turns out lentils are very tiny and probably don't need to be cooked long at all. Anyway, we gave it a few minutes and then added the kale. Looking from the bowl of kale ribbons and the pan they were supposed to go into, my elementary understanding of physics warned me this couldn't possibly work. I threw in a a handful, and the kale shrunk up wonderfully. I was able to add it, handful by handful every few minutes until all had somehow found room in the skillet. Orangette then advises gently simmering for 15 minutes, but we found this to be unnecessary. Either because the lentils were so small or because it took so long to get all the kale in, we worried about overcooking after about 5 minutes.
The result was one of my favourite things: warm mush. Comforting and yummy. I once dated a vegan who said that he liked his food to taste as much like dirt as possible (we didn't last long) and I think I almost understand what he was saying when I ate this. There was a simple earthiness to it. Boyfriend found it a bit bland, and not quite filling enough, but it was just right for me and I think it'll make a great lunch. Next time I'll have to see how well it keeps.
The best food blog out there: www.orangette.blogspot.com
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I started the day quite responsibly, waking in the dark at 6:15 for a fartlek that turned into a steady hard run. I’ve never been good at regulating sprints, and I felt like running hard, pounding out the trail, stretching my legs and pushing myself. It was 6k, which felt like recess after last Sunday. Actually, the whole run had the feeling of recess, racing from one end of the playground and back, before running had any particular goal in mind.
While in the shower I decided on my first indulgence of the day; a Tim Horton’s breakfast. Scoff if you must, but there are few things that start my day off as happily as a bacon breakfast sandwich on a bagel with a large half-coffee half-hot chocolate. Even though nothing involved in the buttery mess has even a passing relation to a barnyard animal, the pleasure of it gives me more energy for the day than any painstakingly-prepared, all-natural, nutrient-packed breakfast ever could. Also, I was able to eat it on the bricks by my work, warmed by the first rays of an unusually warm first day of fall.
For lunch I traipsed down to my favourite coffee shop, Coffee & Company, a place that’s usually outside my budget for lunch. But oh, so worth it. I start with a Café Voltaire, double chocolate, double espresso, double pretentious. Then there’s their chicken pesto panini. Juicy grilled chicken, still-crisp roasted red and green peppers with pesto spread and provolone cheese, grilled on their in-house baked herb panino loaf. I topped this off with an impossibly rich Godiva champagne truffle.
Not every birthday at my office is celebrated with a cake (although my co-workers did sing to me mid-meeting) but by coincidence there was a baby shower that afternoon, which meant Costco cake and half a root beer. A bad idea in retrospect.
Dinner was at the St. John’s fine dining standby, The Cellar. It’s been my parent’s favourite restaurant for twenty years, but somehow I’ve never been there. I started with baked brie in filo with blueberry sauce and apricot chutney. Now, I’ve never met a cheese that I didn’t like, but warm brie is almost another entity onto itself. It looked so good that everyone wanted a bite, which was a good thing because if I’d eaten the entire thing myself I don’t know how well I could have done with the rest of my dinner. This was the New York strip in red wine and mushroom reduction. Cooked perfectly, as expected, but it fell into the trap that catches so many of these steakhouses: over-peppered. I understand that pepper is an important part of steak and very popular, but I think it often overpowers the sauce, so that you can hardly appreciate it. The veggie side was a dish of beets, corn and red pepper. Sweet, but not too sweet.
With diner I ordered a 2007 Louis Latour pinot noir and I have to say, I was a little disappointed. I usually have something very powerful with steak, like a shiraz or a Chianti. Sometimes even a zinfandel. But last night I wanted something a bit light, fruity, nuanced, and this wine didn’t deliver. It had a very poor nose and was really pretty flat on the palate.
Partially because of the poor wine, I decided to order a glass of Newman’s Own port wine with my dark chocolate hazelnut torte. It was sweetly syrupy which went very well with the slightly bitter torte. At this point I started to get a bit nervous about going home, where awaited my favourite dessert of all time. But could I do it justice?
Well, I did my best. My mother had baked the Betty Crocker cocoa fudge cake. This was my first birthday cake and every birthday cake except for one. (A year in Fredericton) This cake is moist, sweet, creamy and chocolaty. As full as I was, I had a small piece and scraped up every last bit of icing. Anyway, there’s more to last the week now.
That was my birthday. A couple of presents especially worth mentioning: Essentials of Italian Cooking from Boyfriend (oh, you’ll be hearing more about that!) and from my parents (in addition to the fabulous meal) a running jacket and tickets to La Boheme which will be playing here in March. Pretty good haul, I must say.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I was heading up the last hill, about half a kilometer from home, I heard a crunch and scream of metal. I broke into a sprint as saw a car hit a building and careen through the intersection. It came to a stop on the other side, and I ran forward as fast as I could. As I got there, people were starting to converge and two were already calling for help. Fortunately, no one seemed to be hurt, but the older lady who was driving stayed in the car just in case. We were close to the central fire station, so it didn't take long for help to arrive. I gave a statement to one of the firemen and then ran the rest of the way home. It was very hard to start running after being stopped for so long, my knees felt creaky, but it was only about three minutes.
After two big glasses of blueberry juice and a very hot shower, Andrew and I started Sunday's soup. Being so tired, I decided to take more of a supervisory role so I could sit with my feet up. It was a very simple soup, potato and leek. Basically, you just boil a whole mess of leeks and potatoes for about an hour, then mash and stir in cream, butter and parsley. Very simple and good.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
1. It doesn't taste as good. It just doesn't.
2. Most mixes contain weird ingredients and additives. Why bother with that if you don't have to?
3. Mixes don't really save you that much time. I've seen mixes where you have to add milk, eggs and oil. So all the mix does is combine the flour, baking powder and sugars for you. Is that really that difficult.
4. In "from scratch" baking, you can taste the love.
Anyways, I consider myself something of a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur, and there's one recipe I always found trumps all the others. It's the recipe that comes on the back of the Baker's brand chocolate chips. It can't be improved upon. I don't always use Baker's chips, but I long ago copied down the recipe and fixed it to my Betty Crocker Cookbook. My only advise is to turn the cookie sheet every five minutes while to cookies are baking, so they cook more evenly.
As for the sauce, it was nothing original, but impossible to mess up. Dice about 6 cloves of garlic (Did I mention I have a pop chop? Envy me.) Cook the garlic in about a half cup of olive oil until it's soft but not brown, add a can of diced tomatoes, oregano (fresh if you have it, and I did!) salt, pepper and whatever other seasonings you fancy. Give the tomatoes a quick mash if you don't like big hunks of tomato in your sauce (I don't) and let simmer for as long as possible (at least an hour). We had it over cheese totellini that was on sale at the grocery store.
It was a good time and made for a delicious dinner, but I probably should have been resting more. I completely collapsed afterwards and realized there would be no way to get my 8k in this morning. I'll try again this evening.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
To make up for two days off I spent two days working. As in, I worked from 9am to 5pm and then from 6pm to 10pm. Factor in a combined total of 2.5 hours on the bus and a 6k fartlek and you can see why those 48 hours took so much out of me. I was so busy I needed to get my mother to bring bread to my office because I didn't have time to get to the grocery store. Also, by September 15th I had already broken 4 Christmas ornaments. Still the Queen of Clutz!
These early morning runs are really starting to get to me. I'm barely awake from them and they leave me spent for the rest of the day. Especially now that they're getting longer and I need to start getting up earlier to compensate. It's only a few more weeks, I suppose. Great, now I'm freaked that the Cape to Cabot is so soon...
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
This is the second Murdoch novel I have read, after "The Black Prince" and I've never understood why there isn't a greater fuss about her. She is truly one of the great modern novelists.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Anyway, Saturday morning Boyfriend and I went to the Farmer's Market to load up on ingredients and treats. We sipped fresh lemonade (I should say guzzled) while we picked up broccoli, carrots, leeks, lettuce, cucumber, turnip, fresh herbs, blueberry jam, homemade bread and cupcakes.
Sunday morning (after a decidedly ordinary 12k run) we got to work making Soupe au Pistou. Apparently a traditional soup in Provence, which I enjoyed because I've recently finished reading Four Queens detailing the history of the 4 daughters of the Count of Provence who all became queens, despite their relatively humble origins. It was especially fascinating because only two actually married Kings. Marguerite married one of the Louis and Eleanor married Henry V of England. The other two married men who were able to acquire Kingdoms, largely through the machinations of the Provencal family. But I digress.
We started by boiling new potatoes, carrots and leaks with a bit of salt for 40 minutes. Then we added green beans from my own little garden (so fresh they were picked after the soup had been started) Kidney beans, broken spaghetti, breadcrumbs, pepper and and let that boil for 20 minutes. Meanwhile we made the pistou, a paste of tomato paste, Parmesan, garlic and basil (this looked kind of gross but smelled amazing) and then stirred in olive oil. Then we varied from JC a bit. I'm sorry, we didn't have two soup tureens (actually, we didn't have one, we borrowed it from Roommate). We added a cup of the soup broth to the pistou, then transferred all that back into the soup, stirred it in and served it. It smelled amazing, and the taste was something else. So flavourful and satisfying. Not creamy, but thick enough to feel substantial. The vegetables were tender but not too soft. Everything was simply tasty. Boyfriend had balked at the $9 for a tiny bottle of saffron but we decided that it was well worth it, especially because we have a lot left for more soup. Not that we'll need it anytime soon. Boyfriend and I had our fill (with homemade whole wheat bread for dipping yum) and Roommate had had a bowl as well, I was able to bring a litre to my parents and put a litre in the freezer for some warm comfort on an upcoming winter's day.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The run wound up being one of the best I'd had for months. I started out slow so I promised myself that if I got to the end of Bannerman Park and I still felt like going home, I could go home. Well, by the end of Bannerman Park I was flying. Once I was over the large hills at the start of my run I hit the level ground with a renewed strength. The golden slanting rays lit up the final burst of green and made my eyes ache. I passed a ballpark that had just had it's final mow and the sweet smell of grass on the sharp autumnal wind opened my lungs and my chest and sparked a store of energy I didn't know I had. By the time I reached Quidi Vidi Lake I felt as though I were a machine, well oiled and indefatigable. I felt fit, I felt strong and I ran back up faster than I had run down.
Meanwhile my lovely boyfriend had decided that if it had to be premade sauce it ought to at least be loaded with cream and cheese, accompanied by chilled white wine and followed by peanut M&Ms. After a hot shower I was able to slip my aching legs into some fuzzy sweats and curl on the couch with fettuccine alfredo and old Blackadder episodes. You can't ask for more out of life than that.
Today there is no running, but there is work, second work and a birthday party for a friend. Off I go!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
As you may have guessed, I'm having one of those today. I slept to late to run before work. Thankfully I'm not working tonight so I can run then. But I feel so tired and heavy. It's 8k, which isn't that long, but it seems an impossible stretch righ now. The boyfriend and I were going to try a new recipe for dinner, but as I won't be back from my run in time we're probably just going to have spaghetti with sauce-in-a-jar again. There's very little that's as depressing as jarred sauce when you were hoping for something a bit more special.
My other big complaint is about microsoft word. Four pages into a project for work I realize that I need to adjust the tabs so that everything is nicely lined up. I need it to look like columns, without actually having the dividing line. There is no way to do this. I can't even just line things up with the spacebar, as whole paragraphs will start jumping around unexpectedly. I'm not one to rant about computer companies, but does Microsoft think we can't be trusted to create our own paragraphs? Must they protect us from ourselves getting wildly out of hand with margins? Will the world end if we abandon the standard half-inch indentations?
Monday, September 7, 2009
I first started by doing it inside out, pretty typical but I picked out the stitches and started over. It took an outrageously long time to do, and the kitten was no help, but I finally got them done and it's not a bad job, if I do say so myself. Probably not quite as neat as a tailor would do, but unless someone decides to examine my ankles up close (unlikely) they should do fine. I still have another pair of pants, but no grey thread, so we'll have to wait on those.
I suppose the best way to start here would be with a little introduction. My name is Emily and I'm just shy of 26. I take on a lot and I plan to use this space to process it all. I'm hoping that writing for others will force me to see the humour in things and keep me grounded in why I'm doing them. So here are a list of things that fill up my days (and nights)
I have a career I really care about, and I realize that I'm pretty lucky for that. I'm a Junior Archives Assistant and I hope one day to be an Archivist. Things are going pretty well here. I have four bosses but my only complaint about them is that there are so many that things get confused. I volunteer for overtime and extra work because I'm trying to make myself indispensable. So far I think it's working, but it can be kind of tiring. Like when I'm at the office on Labour Day.
I also have a part time job at a cardshop in the mall. I'm training myself to be good with money, which is easier to do when you have some. So I work an extra 10-15 hours a week and try to put that money towards grown-up things like savings and debt repayment.
Is everyone reading this from St. John's? If not, I'll take a moment to explain the Cape to Cabot. It's a 20k road race that stretches between two of the areas most popular geographic attractions. The first is Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America. The second is Cabot Tower, a tower built on Signal Hill that dominates the Harbour. From one point you can see the other across the water, but to cover the distance on land you have to take a winding route up and down some of the steepest hills you've ever seen. It takes place October 18th and I'm training.
I also have my hobbies, cooking, baking, crochet and reading. I'm obsessed with food in general so there will probably be a lot of that here. I realize that most of my hobbies are kind of grandmotherly in nature, but that's always been the kind of things I enjoy most.
And then there are friends and family and so forth. And at some point I really need to do some laundry...